June 19, 2009

Good news for a change

Birds ... What do they do? They peck and poke ... And poop ... So there's not a lot of variety as to what can happen.
You couldn't find a better way to summarise the idiocy and emptiness of contemporary American commercial horror than this: Michael Bay's producers don't know how to make birds scary. Chainsaws, knives and hockey masks? A little bit easier. That good news? The remake's on hold.

June 10, 2009

Kubrick and murder

As the only human in the film HAL proves a greater murderer than any of the men.
-- The Harvard Crimson review of 2001, by Tim Hunter, with Stephen Kaplan and Peter Jaszi, 1968.

Now he seems to have gone back to his view at the beginning of 2001: man is a murderer, throughout eternity. The bone that was high in the air has turned into Jack's axe, held aloft, and Jack, crouched over, making wild, inarticulate sounds as he staggers in the maze, has become the ape.
-- Pauline Kael on The Shining, the New Yorker, 1980.

Finally, the question must be considered whether Rousseau's view of man as a fallen angel is not really the most pessimistic and hopeless of philosophies. It leaves man a monster who has gone steadily away from his nobility. It is, I am convinced, more optimistic to accept [Robert] Ardrey's view that, "...we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles and our irreconcilable regiments?
"Or our treaties, whatever they may be worth; our symphonies, however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams, however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses."
-- Stanley Kubrick, a letter to the New York Times, 1972.

Been getting into the Kubrick Site this week. Inexhaustible.

June 8, 2009

Coil/Derek Jarman: pastoral psychedelia

Coil's "Journey to Avebury" was a ten-minute soundtrack made for a pre-existing Derek Jarman film, recorded in the early-mid 90s and never officially released; call it electronic-pastoral psychedelia, the flickering and hypnotic missing link between Tangerine Dream and Boards of Canada and an anomaly even within the collection of anomalies that constituted Coil's "songs of the week". You can see the music matched to Jarman's film here. The short film doesn't just record a visit to a historical (indeed, pre-historical) site; it is a piece of history itself, shot on Super 8 within Jarman's first year of film-making (1971) and an obvious product of the period's counter-cultural interest in occult secrets and mystical traditions. This is a film about the English countryside that seems rapturous in its appreciation, and it reminds you that for all of Jarman's antagonism to the dominant British culture -- especially during that grim stretch known as Thatcherism -- it's easy to put him within a group of ultra-English artists and mystics: your William Blakes, your John Dees, your Peter Ackroyds. See also his appropriation of Shakespeare in the similarly Coil-soundtracked The Angelic Conversation. Which is why we get this nicely paradoxical description: "radical traditionalist".